Three Great Things: Louise Goffin

The songwriter on how she can’t live without her piano, guitar, and notebook.

1. My Steinway piano

I was looking for an upright piano, and I went into the Steinway Yamaha store. I was playing all these pianos, and then I saw the piano I now own — I sat down and played it and it just spoke to me. It was such a beautiful sound. It turns out it’s a 1926 baby grand; it had come from a warehouse in New York and had one owner. It was kept in good stead and had a beautiful musicality to it. I was like, I have to take this piano! I can’t get the upright Yamaha, I have to get this Steinway. I got a loan from the bank and paid for it for eight years. 

It turned out to kind of change my life. At that time, I had a five year old and an eight year old — I remember the five year old could just barely reach the keys, and he immediately took to it. I have written so many songs on that piano, and both of my kids learned to play on it. It’s just been an incredible gift. It’s still in my living room and whenever I sit down to play, it just feels like an extension of me. 

They always say a piano is an “orchestra in a box.” I think the overtones of a piano really relax your body and mind. There are a lot of tones we can’t even hear, but our bodies can feel them. It’s pretty essential. 

2. My Martin guitar

I was living in England — I lived in London for 10 years — but I was in New York in, I believe, the early ‘90s doing some touring. At that point, I had this great, kind of vintage big guitar and I didn’t want to put it on airplanes and have it get ruined. I remember saying to myself, I need a shitty guitar! I needed a guitar that I could knock around but would stay in tune. 

I went into Sam Ash Music on West 48th, which is no longer there, and said, “I need the lowest of the totem pole Martin that you have.” They brought out this guitar and were like, “This is our factory Martin,” and I said “OK, great,” and I bought it. The guitar has gone all around the world with me — it’s the best guitar. There’s nothing shitty about that guitar. It just sounds better and better and better every year. 

Wood instruments — the vibrations of what you play with them affect and change the wood. Part of the reason Stradivarius classical instruments are so unique is because of the people who’ve played them — over the years, the wood gets better, the sound gets better, the resonance gets better. I don’t know if that’s a fact, but maybe that’s the reason Stradivariuses are so valuable. My guitar, while it’s not a Stradivarius, is an instrument that all of the love I’ve put into it, and all the songs I’ve played with it, have just made it a better and better instrument. It gives back to me what I’m writing on it. It’s also dependable. The intonation is great, it’s easy to play, the sound is great. I haven’t been able to beat it, and it was supposed to be the guitar that could get knocked around.  

3. A notebook

My dad always had a spiral notebook nearby. He wrote all of his lyrics mostly in those spiral college notebooks. I have to write things down. I feel like writing things down makes ideas real. If things were cooped up inside of me and I didn’t have a way to write them down, I would just go insane. 

I write every single day. Most of my life, I’ve tried to write something every day — not always music, it could just be thoughts, emptying my brain. Words and the way they’re put together are really important to me. They say a lot about who a person is, the way the words come out of their mouth and the way they put words together. Lyrics and songs and stories and thoughts and intentions and dreams — all of that comes together with a notebook.  

(Photo Credit: Amanda Bjorn)